Monday 28 December 2020

Scenic base layer

Work on Hexworthy continues slowly, but I have made a little progress. Following the carving of the polystyrene landscape, it was given an outer "shell" layer from kitchen towel soaked in PVA. This is a bit like "decoupage"  I suppose, the kitchen towel allows the glue to soak right through. A couple of layers is surprisingly tough once solid. 

This looked a bit like a hospital gown, so I moved quickly onto a base scenic layer. Normally I use plaster, coloured with powder paint, but I've heard good things about using tile grout so decided to give it a try, it even comes pre-coloured so bought a bag in a suitable shade of brown. I mixed some up and slopped it on with a big brush. 

It dries paler of course, not a bad shade for soil though it looks like rather dry soil - a desert right now! Anyway, a good base for further scenic work and quick and easy to do. 

I've also stuck the walling and bridge in place now, there are a few gaps to fill in. 

Sunday 27 December 2020

A blue Terrier

I got this delightful blue Terrier tank engine for Christmas. The mobile phone photos do make it look a little lurid, but it is quite a bright blue. 

The livery and lettering is for the Kent & East Sussex Railway, a light railway that is now preserved. The model is by Hornby.

The detailing is nicely done, including the cab interior and back-head, and the lining is very fine. I'm sure it could do with a little light weathering though. 

You may have noticed that, once again, I have a standard gauge loco posed on a narrow gauge layout... and don't in fact have a layout to run it on!

Saturday 5 December 2020

An Encyclopaedia of British Bridges.

OK, I like bridges. I guess as an Engineer I like many things structural and mechanical, and I'm always interested in how things work and why they are the way they are. I even did a little Civil Engineering as part of my degree, so have a basic understanding of them, and bridges are such a visual illustration of forces at work. So perhaps not surprising that this book by David McFretrich caught my eye

It's a massive book - large hardback format, almost 450 pages, and rather heavy - and is exactly what it says on the front. It doesn't list every bridge in Britain of course, but aims to list all those of interest; historically, structurally, aesthetically, socially. Many of them (near half) are illustrated with a photo, though of course these are by necessity rather small. Some photos are rather poor, being dark or grainy, which is understandable where it is a historic image but I'm sure better quality pictures could have been sourced in some places. The short text entry gives the background, history, key structural and aesthetic details very succinctly, with references and even listing any walks that pass it.

As well as the encyclopaedia and references, and a geographical index, the book starts with a brief outline of the types of bridge and how they work - very clearly and simply. There is a "miscellany" with further information, categories, and background, referring to listed bridges. It is a good quality book that seems very well put together. The author not only knows his bridges but is enthusiastic about them, yet he is able to explain the subject well - this is not an engineers textbook, it is accessible to any reader. It's probably not a guide for modellers either, though I think it is good inspiration for the many types of bridges in Britain. 

Of course probably this isn't the sort of book you read from cover to cover, but it is a fascinating resource to dip into and flick through. If like me you find bridges interesting, or if you like structures, architecture, or history, you will find this interesting. 

Saturday 21 November 2020

Hexworthy gets verticality

Progress with Hexworthy has been so very slow there has been nothing to post for a while, but I have now added some 3-dimensional landscape forms. You will see that the printed backscene has been protected with cling-film, which will stay in place until the messy part of scenery development (i.e. most of it) is done.

Road and yard areas around the station were cut from thick card, using paper templates as the shapes were remarkably complex in places. Further card was used underneath in places to raise the roadway a little, and at the end near the gateways foamboard packing was used to raise the level further. The platforms are still not fixed yet.

The bridge and public road walls have been stuck in place, with the heights of the yard roadways built up to match. The river bank was already in place, but all the ground above track level has been added, carved from expanded polystyrene foam. Some of the pieces were quite complex to cut as they fitted into gaps between the roads, backscene, and tracks. 

The ground rises slightly behind the station and at the right-hand end, with a valley for the stream. The prototype location is in a steep valley but the baseboard doesn't allow space to show that, I'm hoping the rising ground combined with the backscene will give that sense of location. The flat area is a piece of MDF - I have an idea for a detail scene here and it would be easier to build it off-layout, so this is removable with screws for now. 

Tuesday 17 November 2020

British Steam Locomotives - A Pictorial Survey

This new book by David Mather serves the seemingly growing interest in industrial railways. The title tells you what it is - pictures of industrial steam locomotives. Although a portrait style as befits the typical photograph, it is a medium size and relatively hefty 200 pages - most of which contain a photo, and many of those are full-page - in a quality hardback format with dust-jacket.

The biggest and best known industrial steam locomotives builders as well as a number of less well known companies - 39 loco builders in all - are covered in alphabetical order. Each is introduced with a concise history and profile of the company, and where preserved examples can be found, though there are no lists (except numerical output by builder as an appendix) - this is a pictorial survey of course. There were a few examples of poorly-phrased text but the content was enough to be interesting and provide background, while allowing the majority of space to be filled with pictures. 

The pictures range from period black and white, early colour, through early preservation to the present day. I particularly liked the period colour photos, which are handy weathering examples of in-service industrial locos for modellers. Generally they are interesting shots with informative captions about the loco and the location of use, though the date of the photo was not always given. 

I did find some of the photo choices odd, sometimes not showing the loco well. There were 12 pages of Austerity locos - I know they were a numerous class, but it didn't feel very balanced, and there were few narrow gauge - not a single "quarry Hunslet" which is another numerous industrial class. All are of locos in use in the UK except three photos of North British locos in use overseas; since many of the loco builders listed were also prolific exporters this seemed inconsistent, as was the photo of a traction engine! Also while it might be expected that early period photos are of variable quality, I noticed a few of the more recent photos of preserved locos were pixelated, grainy, slightly out of focus or badly framed - surely better photos could have been found? 

If that sounds picky, it is really - overall the book "does what it says on the tin". Those with an interest in industrial steam locos, or even steam locos in general, will enjoy browsing the pictures, and perhaps learning about loco types and builders that are less well known. Modellers will find it a useful resource for details, liveries, and weathering, and perhaps some unusual loco inspiration. I can see it being a good book to while away some lockdown hours, or as a Christmas present, and why not? 

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Running snags and a coupling challenge

The modelling mojo seems to have been in short supply in recent months, but from time to time a few minutes shunting Loctern Quay proves a good distraction. However, I've noticed the little Bagnall frequently stalled at a couple of places. I'd checked the wheels weren't dirty and the rail head had a good coat of graphite, and other locos didn't stall in the same place. In the end it just needed some careful attention to see the first issue...

The cross-head guide rails just touch those bolts on the point lever base enough to lift the loco very slightly, so the wheels loose contact with the rails. Once spotted the solution was simple - cut off the bolt heads with a scalpel - and smooth running without stalling was achieved.

The other place was the point inset in the crossing. Again close inspection revealed that part of the inset "timbers" was lifting just to the left of the frog (in the facing direction), this was enough to lift the lightweight Bagnall but didn't bother heavier whitemetal locos. A spot of glue pushed under the lifting end and weighted down returned the timber to just below rail level, and smooth running resumed here too. Mind you, this photo shows the loco could do with dusting!

Another job was to fit a Microtrains coupling to my new Decauville. This was tricky because the couplings have a large draft box which I normally set behind the buffer-beam, but as you can see from the underside shot below, the chassis precludes that. In addition, I couldn't see how to remove the body without damage. I managed to cut a square hole in the rear buffer-beam to recess the box slightly, then built up a supporting bracket around it from black plasticard. It's rather large, but some prototype NG locos had similarly large coupling mounts, and a touch of paint will tone it down. It does at least work, even if the overhang is rather large.

I still need to do the front, I'm more worried about that as a messy job will be more obvious. However, one coupling is enough for Loctern Quay!

Monday 12 October 2020

Over-size Ruston

 I recently got another toy - the Hornby little Ruston shunter suits my interests in industrial locos, and is ideal for small layouts. I'm also rather partial to some wasp stripes!

It is tiny - but of course, it isn't actually 009, so I don't have a layout to run it on! For now it will join the growing collection of industrial OO locos, the irony of this little OO loco is that it is smaller than several of my 009 locos. 

Despite being small it is a finely detailed model, though no doubt someday it will get a little weathering to bring it to life more. The open cab could use a crew too, but is clear of motor. 

It comes coupled to a truck for additional pickups, though it more than doubles the length of the loco. I'm well used to 4-wheel locos in narrow gauge models so I don't see the need for that, so I will have to figure out how to disconnect it at some point. I'll also need to fit the couplings. However, without a layout, there seems no rush...

Monday 14 September 2020

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway

 Another book by prolific NG railway author Peter Johnson has recently been published, this time on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. 

The hardback book is similar in style to Peter's other recent books on the Vale of Rheidol Railway and the Corris Railway, all three share a common factor - they all came under the ownership of the Great Western Railway, and these books are expanded from some material that was compiled in Peter's book on the Great Western Narrow Gauge Railways a few years ago. 

A substantial portion of the book deals with the various proposals to build a railway to Llanfair, and how the successful scheme came about, including the local and central government funding. The periods under Cambrian and Great Western control are then covered. The nature of a book based on research of documents of a historical time means much of the content comes from official minutes and records, with some operational details and limited personal perspectives. 

There are plenty of photographs which are reproduced well, including some recent photographs, and some covering the preservation era, but most are period photographs. Sections of photographs covering for example locomotives or rolling stock are interspersed between the chapters. A map and gradient profile is included inside the covers, while some period maps are included giving detail of the main station layouts. There are no stock drawings though, which modellers like to see. 

The later part of the book tells the story of preservation to the present day. This is a nice end to the book, but this is a big story in itself which by necessity is covered only briefly. Key events and developments are noted, but by comparison to the original building and early operation of the railway this is clearly a whistle-stop tour. 

So this isn't a "definitive" work on the railway, but it is a good quality book with good photos and detailed but readable and enjoyable text. It tells a story of a rural railway with basic facilities that served its community for around 50 years, then after a difficult transition to preservation, has flourished as a characterful tourist railway. Whether it is a line you know well or not, if you like narrow gauge or minor railways then I am sure you will enjoy this book. 

Saturday 29 August 2020

East Somerset Railway and SS Great Britain

Despite the current situation we recently managed a "stay-cation" in Somerset. I realised the East Somerset Railway was not far away, so we booked a visit.

It was nice to enjoy a steam train ride for the first time this year. The railway had various COVID measures in place; the use of compartment coaches kept family groups isolated from each other, and although the train was busy platforms were not crowded, so it felt pretty safe. Getting photos of the loco meant some awkward dodging of people to maintain social distancing though. 

I've never visited this line before and although a small operation with a short line, it was well organised and presented. Of course the loco was shiny but the carriages and station were well kept too. 

The loco shed area was open for viewing a short walk from the station - of course I had to take a look. Outside was this nice little Andrew Barclay saddle tank.

And this Sentinel diesel, a 6-wheeled version but I have a very similar 4-wheel Hornby model tucked away for a future project.

We also visited the SS Great Britain - not a railway but engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great Railway engineer. It was the longest ship in existence when built, an early iron ship and an early adopter of propeller propulsion, so quite radical in her day. Being a passenger liner made her quite different from many preserved warships, an interesting visit. 

Afterwards we walked along the quay, where some of the railway tracks that once served it are preserved. Sadly no demonstration trains were running and the "M-Shed" museum was closed, but I did find this line-up of nicely preserved wagons.

Sunday 16 August 2020

Loctern Quay in Railway Modeller!


Loctern Quay is in the September 2020 Railway Modeller. I have to say the 4-page article shows it rather well! 

Friday 31 July 2020


Another month has gone by and despite the current semi-lock-down I've not managed any modelling to report. Normally this time of year would feature a visit to the Amberley railway gala, but that of course was cancelled along with every other railway gala and exhibition. What's more, although some preserved railways have been able to open with some kind of service it is unlikely I'll be visiting many this year. So I have prescribed myself some (mail order) retail therapy...

It's a Minitrains Decauville "Progress" 0-6-0 tank, which I rather like the look of, but missed the first batch. I chose the red as I think it suited this loco best, and although it may be a little on the small side (I guess it is HO, but Minitrains can be variable in scale) I think it looks quite at home on Loctern Quay. I expect it will be seen hauling passengers to Hexworthy in due course too.

Like all Minitrains locos it runs smoothly, albeit with the motor and flywheel visible in the cab from some angles. I will have to get a (short) loco crew to distract from it. However, my biggest challenge will be fitting Microtrains couplings with their large draft box, and no space behind the buffer beams. 

The above photos were taken on my phone, and look somewhat bright - the red loco looks quite orange. By contrast the photo below was taken on a "proper" camera and I think is closer to true colour, here you can also see the working headlight. 

Tuesday 30 June 2020

More stonework, slates, and slabs at Hexworthy

Since my last post I have revisited the stonework of the bridge and walls, touching in some stones with lighter shades of brown to lighten and increase the variation in tone. I think I overdid the washes to unify the colours which were too dark. The effect is subtle, probably the tone could be a little lighter still, but I am much happier.

Looking at photos of the real bridge I decided to add some lichen using dry-brushing of mint green paint, yes that really is the colour seen on the real thing (see the last post), and a hint of darker moss green at the base. 

The little culvert also looks lighter now.

The station stonework looked a little "fresh" by comparison, so I went over the mortar with more weathering powder/talc mixture but this time slightly more brown in colour. It is surprising the effect this has had in changing the tone of the building. I also painted the roof 

You may notice a few other changes to the station. 

I painted the roof - after finding building Loctern Quay that the York Modelmaking slates although grey paper, benefited from painting, I used the same approach here. Individual tiles were picked out in a few shades of grey-blue, then the whole roof given a wash of mid grey - this colours any remaining tiles and tones it all together. Perhaps the variation is too much here, but to me it looks much better than the plain uniform grey before, and hand cut slates can vary in colour much more than modern manufactured slates. 

The platforms last seen being laid from individually cut slabs has been painted. I started with a waft of Halfords grey primer, painted a similar grey with a slight hint of beige, then picked out a few slabs in slightly different shades - much less variation here though. A wash of thin beige and more weathering powders to fill any gaps finished the job. 

The other change is the addition of the canopy, made from some valance I had in stock (possibly Slaters) and plasticard, it has wire (paperclip) rods set into it that poke into holes in the foam building walls through into the foam-core of the intermediate floor. Although just a push-fit for now as it needs painting 

A little way to go with the ground coverings but the station area is starting to take shape. 

Sunday 14 June 2020

Stonework at Hexworthy

Unlike many I have been fully occupied of late - I'm not complaining, but modelling time has been more limited than expected. Slow progress has been made though with the stonework around Hexworthy - scribing and painting. The wall and bridge had been cut from foam (polystyrene pizza bases) for some time, finally I have scribed the stonework into it. 

The small space behind it looked empty, there's supposed to be a road and another wall, so I added a second wall behind it. As you can see from the close-up this wall is far too close, the road is only about a scale 3' to 4' wide, but from normal angles this isn't obvious so I hope the subterfuge works. With a gate, and a few trees and bushes hanging over the wall the transition to flat back-scene should look more natural. I've also added a water tower, actually a resin casting from Anyscale Models; a nice size tank and the stonework matches well but it was rather low, so I made a coaling platform for it to stand on. (Ignore the brass weight holding the wall upright in place for now).

One area I am unsure of is the painting of the stonework. I used acrylics with a grey coat mixed with PVA to strengthen the foam, onto which individual stones were picked out, unified with a thin wash, then the mortar added from weathering powders mixed with talc. The effect looks OK, but it is perhaps a little dark, and looks much darker brown than the station.


The real stonework colour of course varies with ambient lighting and weather, moss and damp, so hard to say. 

The roadway is also foam, with talc sprinkled over the wet grey paint. It's not come out as well as when Gordon Gravett does it...

The little bridge has also had the stone treatment. Again, I think too dark?